Now is the time for Blade Runner. In fact, it is November 2019, so in our past! – that Ridley Scott set the plot for this sci-fi classic, adapted from sci-fi giant Philip K. Dick. Almost 40 years after its film premiere, it remains one of the most striking representations of artificial intelligence in the seventh art. Its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 by Denis Villeneuve, gave a thunderous replica in 2017. One of the points of union between these works of fiction is that they embody an AI that movies and novels like to represent “strong”, that is to say, almighty . It has little to do with what is invading our reality today, the latter contenting itself with imitating some human capacities!
“The Frankenstein complex”
But where to look for the first dummy AI? “It is difficult to designate a foundational work,” explains Natacha Vas-Deyres, a science fiction researcher at Bordeaux Montaigne University (this article was originally published in the special issue 199 of Sciences et Avenir dedicated to artificial intelligence). However, we can unearth the beginnings of thinking machines in tales from the late 19th century. Thus, the novel Ignis by the Frenchman Didier de Chousy (1883) summarizes the rebellion of the agricultural worker robots against their human exploiters. “If they rebel, it is because their thinking is autonomous”, analyzes Natacha Vas-Deyres, for whom this work is one of the first introductions to machines equipped with reflection.
In 1909, the British Edward Morgan Forster goes further in The Machine Stops: the men of his futuristic society live underground, under the control of a huge artificial brain. Other books will feature what the novelist Isaac Asimov calls in his cycle The Robots “Frankenstein’s complex”: a nod to the doctor invented by the novelist Mary Shelley, creator of a monster that turns against him. And so to say that man always imagines the worst when he invents a machine: it is in its nature to rebel!
Supercomputer inseminates its creator’s wife
Another important milestone, the 1960 launch of the Hammers of Vulcan, by Philip K. Dick. The novelist imagines that humanity has placed its destiny in the “hands” of supercomputers. In the cinema, eight years later came the impact of 2001, the Space Odyssey, which was to be emulated. Thus, in 1977, Génération Proteus handed over the darkrooms to a supercomputer … which inseminates the wife of its creator.
Like The Neuromancer written by William Gibson, inspiration for the Matrix saga, the fiction of the 80s is marked by the genre of “cyberpunk” that describes futuristic societies “in which AI is the center, one of the trends. Essential technologies of the actuality “. world ”, laughs Natacha Vas-Deyres. Ten years later, the situation worsens. In the nightmare tales of which the Terminator 2 movie is the archetype, “the AI wants to take control of humanity to annihilate it,” explains the researcher. James Cameron’s blockbuster dates from the AI-caused nuclear apocalypse to August 29, 1997… We got it!
FILMS, SERIES, VIDEOS
Blade Runner – Ridley Scott, 1982
Intellectually, they are equal to their human creators. Physically, they are superior to them. These are the replicants, extraordinarily evolved robots, employed as slaves in the work of colonizing extraterrestrial planets. But the replicants rebelled; on Earth, a special police squad, the Blade Runners, is tasked with eliminating them … Originally, a book by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? published in 1968. Upon arrival, a dizzying film that questions René Descartes’s “I think therefore I am”. The hero played by Harrison Ford is also called… Rick Deckard!
Ex Machina – Alex Garland, 2014
A young engineer is invited by his boss, a computer genius and head of a multinational in the Gafa style, to take the Turing test (see page 13) on a female robot endowed with artificial intelligence. The experience takes place in an ultra-techno house at the end of the world, and the film is a perfect embodiment of Asimov’s “Frankenstein complex”. In other words, AI is disgusting. But even more, she wants to become human… Too bad that actor Oscar Isaac gives a grotesque interpretation of the inventor, who is less of a learned demiurge than a drunken hipster.
Her – Spike Jonze, 2013
In the near future, in Los Angeles, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) works at a start-up where his job is to write letters: his clients are too busy to hold the pen themselves. If you like to put yourself in the place of others, it is also to fill the void of your own existence. But everything changes when he meets “Ella”. In other words, your computer’s new operating system, a voice device, which speaks in the original version with the voice of Scarlett Johansson. A charming AI, with replicas, humor and that Theodore falls in love with. “A very current topic”, comments Natacha Vas-Deyres, “that of machinic empathy: AI is discovered through emotions and creates a bond with humans. “
Black mirror 2011-2019
Young Rachel is a lost teenager who cannot make friends. His only passion? Pop star Ashley O, whose movements she religiously follows. For her 15th birthday she receives as a gift the interactive doll Ashley Too, a kind of digital clone of her idol… The episode Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too closes the fifth season of Black Mirror. This series of anticipation on the dark side of new technological advancements here imagines a conversational robot, doped with AI. The result is less scary than what the Netflix show has us used to.
In a large amusement park that simulates the Wild West, wealthy tourists play cowboys against hyper-sophisticated robots, programmed to entertain them. Specifically, this consists for the latter in dying at the end of a six-shot duel. And reborn the next day … The HBO series presents the emergence of consciousness in machines, remembering their successive deaths. It is inspired by the film of the same name, directed by Michael Crichton in 1973. Centered on the character of a murderous robot played by Yul Brynner, this was undoubtedly a source of inspiration for James Cameron’s first Terminator.
2001, A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick, 1968
A trip through space to the planet Jupiter. On board the spacecraft, two astronauts and an onboard computer, Hal. An omniscient artificial intelligence that goes crazy and compromises the mission. Stanley Kubrick’s monster movie goes way beyond this summary. And in particular it explores the hypothesis of the possibility of extraterrestrial life. 2001 shines with its scientific rigor – AI pioneer Marvin Minsky advised Kubrick on the script – and fifty years after its release, this enigmatic work continues to fascinate. Hal remains the ultimate incarnation of the dangers of AI.
Terminator 2 – James Cameron, 1991
A ruthless war sees machines and humans collide. To achieve victory, the robots send one of their own into the past to kill the future leader of the rebellion when he is just a teenager. But the men simultaneously plan a reprogrammed Terminator to save the young man. The second film in the saga focuses on the Skynet program, an AI designed to automate nuclear weapons but which turns against its creators. Mark a milestone in the history of digital special effects with the character of the villain T-1000, whose body freely transforms into a liquid metal, such as mercury.
MANGAS, BD, COMICOS
Strong in bubbles
“My body is made of metal and circuitry, but my feelings are the same as yours. I’m sick of being treated like a common utensil!” So says the aptly named Machine Man. This robot endowed with thoughts and emotions is one of the artificial intelligences produced by Marvel, the famous publisher specializing in comics, creator of Spider-Man and other Avengers. Those who also include in their ranks another thinking robot, Vision, who appears in the latest internationally successful film adaptations.
With their bodybuilding-style muscles, these machines are far less kawaii (cute in Japanese) than the famous Astro Boy, created in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka. “The robot seen from Japan can only be fundamentally good and in empathy with the human being”, says Natacha Vas-Deyres. And the Franco-Belgian comics? She is not left out. See Spirou and Fantasio who, since the late 1940s, had a hard time with a terrifying Radar robot, one of their first adventures drawn by the great André Franquin. And then there is Yoko Tsuno! In The Strange Trio (1971), the young woman, an electronic engineer, meets the “coordinator”, a giant computer that governs the entire life of an extraterrestrial population, the Vinéens. Innovative, the series drawn and written by Roger Leloup deserves to be rediscovered.
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